The Spanish ‘menú del día’ and how to eat cheap in Spain

For those who have not always lived in Spain, the Spanish system regarding menus might seem a bit confusing. In Spain, a menu can be either la carta or el menú del día, and we would be ordering two different things. But there is no need to worry, it is actually quite simple! This is everything you need to know about the Spanish menú del día and what to expect of it.

The different types of menus in Spanish restaurants

There are different types of menus in Spain

There are different types of menus in Spain. | Shutterstock

The word menú is slightly ambiguous for Spanish-speaking people too. Just as in English, it may refer to the physical list of food or to the dishes themselves, as well as the menú del día. Hence, if someone asks for it in a restaurant, they might face an awkward situation. Are they asking for the physical list, the names of the dishes or the menú del día?

Thus, it is more convenient to be specific. If you want to ask for the full menu and order individual items, then you must ask for la carta. It is the only type of menu in most countries, but not in Spain. The carta is always available and you will be able to choose between all the dishes and beverages the restaurant has to offer.

Then, what is the difference between a standard menu and the menú del día? Well, to start with, the menú del día is usually not available on weekends. It is also worth mentioning that la carta, the physical menu with all the options, often includes a section with the menú del día. Most restaurants with a menú del día have it written outside on a chalkboard, and one can also ask the waiters for it.

Except for occasional changes, la carta is always the same, but not the menú del día. Its name literally means “menu of the day” in Spanish. It provides a reduced list of options, and the dishes tend to change day by day. This might sound like an impoverished version of la carta, but there are actually many reasons why the menú del día is so popular in Spain.

Advantages of the Spanish ‘menú del día’

It is common to see a menú del día written on a chalkboard outside a restaurant

It is common to see a menú del día written on a chalkboard outside a restaurant. | Shutterstock

To start with, there is the price. Having a menú del día is usually cheaper than ordering individual dishes and drinks. The origin of this type of menu is related to workers who were not able to get home for lunch and could not afford paying for a full meal every day. The tradition has not died since, and many workers rely on the menú del día to eat at lunch break nowadays.

So, how much does it cost? Well, it depends on the restaurant. However, the average price of a menú del día goes from 10 to 15 euros. You can find some of them for 8-9 euros too, and fancier restaurants can charge around 17 euros, but that is usually the prince range.

What do you get if you order a ‘menú del día’?

A menú del día in Seville

A menú del día in Seville. | Wikimedia

The menú del día encompasses different categories that we will briefly discuss one by one so you know what you are getting the next time you order it. Overall, every category will have a few options and the customer is expected to choose one for each of them. Besides, most menús del día include bread and a drink.

  • Entrante. This would be a starter or an appetiser. It is not always included on the menú del día, but sometimes it is.
  • Primer plato. It is also called primero. It is literally the first course. Here you will usually find salads, soups, vegetable dishes, and so on.
  • Segundo plato. You can call it just segundo, and it is the second course. As a rule, most Spanish restaurants offer dishes with fish or meat in them. It is considered the heavy course of the meal. Depending on the restaurant, you can also find vegetarian and vegan options, but it is not usually the case.
  • Postre. Desserts. You can usually order coffee instead.

Spanish ‘menú del día’ examples

Here you have some examples of menú del día. ¡Que aproveche! Enjoy!

A typical menú del día in Spanish and English

A typical menú del día in Spanish and English. | Shutterstock

Menú del día in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Menú del día in Vitoria-Gasteiz. | Wikimedia

A menu in Denia, Valencian Community

A menu in Denia, Valencian Community. | Wikimedia

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